Chinese police authorities say chaos and lawlessness in the private school bus business is the "root cause" of a traffic accident that killed eight school children.
A private bus carrying about 50 students veered off a bridge and plunged into a frozen river last Tuesday in Zhoujia township of Shuangcheng city in northeastern Heilongjiang Province. Thirty-nine others were injured. The driver has been arrested.
The probe concluded that the driver, who was speeding, had no license, and the bus was overloaded and had sub-standard brakes, said Wang Jinbiao, deputy director of the Ministry of Public Security traffic bureau at a Thursday news conference.
The 26-passenger bus was carrying 52 people at the time of the accident, police said.
Ministry spokesman Wu Heping said police had ordered a national overhaul of all school transport vehicles after the accident, to check on licenses and safety measures.
"We need to look beyond this tragedy at the deeper cause," said Wu, adding that the police overhaul found that the school transport business was a mess.
Vehicles were often unlicensed and overloaded and did not respect speed restrictions. Some dropped off students far from the campus to dodge inspections. This kind of behavior is a threat to school bus safety, Wu said.
He said some private buses used for carrying school children were ready for the scrap heap.
Wu urged the government to draw up plans to regulate the school transport market in the interests of student safety, and vowed to step up police supervision.
He said Heilongjiang police have punished eight officials for the fatal bus plunge.
China's roads are among the world's most dangerous. Official police records show that traffic accidents killed 82,000 people and injured 400,000 others in the first eleven months this year.
(Xinhua News Agency November 30, 2006)